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Essay Questions for Modern European History ( one hour)

1. Write an essay on liberalism in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, describing its origin, development, and the changes which have taken place in it during the past century.

2. After the Congress of Vienna no general war was fought until 1914, after Versailles a new world war broke out 20 years later, Did this reveal the greater competence of those who gathered at Vienna or had the triumph of nationalism and the national states in the 19th century made the task of those at Versailles far greater than that faced at Vienna?

3.Students of political thought insist that there is a great deal of difference between divine right kings of the 17th century, enlightened despots of the 18th century, and dictators of the 20th century. Discuss what seems to you not only the differences but the similarities.

4.In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was not an apparent gap between the arts and the sciences. The 17th and 18th century “literary” intellectuals, for example, show the direct impact of scientific developments. Discuss this phenomenon, showing how it influenced ideas about political and social institutions.

5.The idea of the contract binding lord and vassal, governor and governed, is one of the most potent in western political theory. Show how it emerged and developed to about 1789.

6.Books have frequently had a significant effect on the period in which there were published or on a subsequent period. Choose three (3) of the following, outline their central thesis, and comment fully on their impact at homer and abroad at the time of publication and later.

John Locke

Second Treatise on Civil Government

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Social Contract


The Spirit of the Laws

Adam Smith

Wealth of Nations

Karl Marx & Frederick Engels

Communist Manifesto

Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina

Charles Darwin

Origin of the Species

Oswald Spengler

Decline of the West

J. S. Mill

On Liberty

7. What similarities can you point to between the Napoleonic Wars, on the one hand, and World War I or World War II, on the other (Choose one of the World Wars) in respect to the following points: (1) the part played by Russia, (2) the importance of sea power, and (3) the role of nationalism?

8. Four famous names in German history are Luther, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, and Hitler. What were the problems facing these men and how did they solve them? Is it correct to say that all emphasized the power of the state at the expense of individual liberty?

9. Frenchmen refer to Louis XIV as “the Great.” Nobody could call any Hanoverian king of England by that title. Yet, in balance, England was wealthier, stronger, and greater than France in the 18th and 19th centuries. How does one explain this?

10. To what degree should one consider Locke and the French philosophes responsible for liberal political and social thought in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries?

11. The acquisition of colonial empire became a major preoccupation of the Great Powers beginning in the 16th century. What objects did they thereby seek to gain? How successful were they? What results did they bring about? Discuss for either the period 1500-1815 or 1815-1940.